Smooth Soldering Hints
by Susan N
Is it an art in itself, to make a smooth soldering line on a panel? I have made a number of panels and sun-catchers, but the soldering is very unsteady looking. Is soldering an art in itself that takes a lot of practice and 'trial and error' to learn?
Yes, soldering is something that takes lots of practice and yes, it is an art in itself. It would help to have an instructor show you how to do it, then you need to practice until you have perfected it. Actually that goes for any stained glass technique.
Here are a few tips that might help:
1. Make sure your iron is hot enough. A too cool iron makes soldering an impossible chore. Your solder lines will have hills and valleys as well as points sticking up here and there. If you're using a temp controller, turn it off and see if that makes a difference.
2. Use enough flux. You don't have to flood the panel with flux, but make sure you can see it all along the foil.
3. Try different fluxes. Some fluxes work better than others. Everyone has their favorite. I happen to like a liquid flux better than a gel or paste.
4. Don't linger in one spot trying to get it just right. You can go back and touch it up. Staying too long makes the solder run through to the other side if there is any type of a gap. It also boils the adhesive off the foil and makes a black sticky stringy mess come to the surface of the solder. And...it can cause the glass to crack from the excess heat in one place for a long time.
5. Put your iron on the foil and hold the solder against the top side of the tip. Run the iron along the foil, pushing the solder against the tip. The solder will keep melting and beading up behind your iron as you move along. Remove the solder about 1/4 to 1/8 inch from the end of the foil line, but keep pulling the iron along to the end. Doing that will prevent the solder from running over the edge.
6. Make a practice panel rather than practicing on one that you want to keep or give away. You can make one out of cheap window glass. When you are working on something that you don't care about, you won't be nervous, and more apt to experiment to see what works and what doesn't.
6. Go over my tutorial on soldering copper foil here
I hope some of this helps you. Trying to describing how to solder is difficult when it is such a visual process. Most important, you need to practice, practice, practice.